Marbles X IBM
Work with Marbles Kids Museum to:
- Welcome and orient guests while providing playful ways to help them navigate seamlessly on and around campus
- Extend the playful spirit to the campus exterior, inspiring and engaging the community through the power of play.
Marbles Kids Museum is a critical institution in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Tasked with providing playful ways to engage museum guests and the surrounding exterior community, my team designed a research-based, guest-centered interactive experience that highlighted the organizations various offerings and core mission. We worked in collaboration with another team focused on improving the museum’s interior and courtyard way-finding system.
This project was completed as part of a class called "Design It Forward". Interdisciplinary teams of students partnered with nonprofits to solve their problems, under the guidance of IBM designers and IBM's Enterprise Design Thinking problem-solving framework.
As one of two designers on my sub-team of six, I focused on primary research, communicating the design research process, persona generation, as-is journey mapping, workshop facilitation, to-be scenario, presentation information architecture, graphics, and building out prototypes.
What is the current experience like for Marbles' guests? How is Marbles perceived by the general downtown Raleigh community? How can Marbles expand their mission to welcome a wider audience and bring awareness to all their offerings?
My team spent about 3 weeks researching the existing Marbles Kids Museum guest experience and community perception with non-engaged audiences. While the primary museum space is targeted for families with children, Marbles offers many other amenities that welcome a much wider audience, like the IMax Theater, cafe, gift shop, and 21+ social events.
- Examining the museum's website and marketing collateral
- Fly-on-the-wall and participant observation
- Unstructured and semi-structured Interview (with museum team members)
- On-site surveys with museum guests, pedestrians, and downtown patrons
- Stakeholder mapping
- Site mapping (circulation, parking, viewpoints diagrams)
- Examining user-generated content (online reviews, social media posts etc)
We researched their mission, current engagement strategies and visitation rates and presented our findings to the Marbles Team for validation.
Using our research we created personas to help understand users, their needs, experiences, behaviors, and goals.
Using a combination of empathy maps and as-is scenario maps to build out a better understanding of our user's current experience, we were able to identify opportunities for improvement. Below is our final as-is scenario.
After identifying the primary pain points for users we outlined what each users needs to alleviate these blockers.
Who? What? Wow!: Defining Hills
“Hills” are statements that align the design team around a single goal. They detail who is being designed for, what will be designed (in very general terms), and the value that design will bring to the client. After developing a series of hills for each persona, we narrowed it down to the following hill and validated this goal with the Marbles team.
To demonstrate our understanding of the users needs to the client, we created the following to-be scenario which explains how our would-be solution solves the problems we observed in the as-is scenario. The most challenging aspect of crafting the to-be scenario was to carefully navigate tuning into the user needs and pain points without jumping into specific solutions. As a designer versed in rapid ideation, this was a growing moment that showed me the importance and impact that aligning the project goals and user research prior to ideation can make. Through this strategy of empathy design thinking, the ideation processes, when we got there, was more productive, efficient, and in tune with the user and client needs.
Ideation & Solutions
With our "Hills", need statements, and to-be scenario in mind we began a focused ideation process. In this process we used story boarding, feasibility maps, round robin, collaborative sketching, and open discussions to build and narrow our solution options. The most compelling part of this process for me was seeing team mates who were shy or unfamiliar with the design process at the start of the semester openly participating and putting their ideas out there. Going through this process with user research and needs at the forefront gave the team a sense of confidence and understanding for the end goal that throwing out wild ideas didn't feel out of place if they worked to meet those goals in one way or another.
One of the core components of the Marbles experience was the lack of screens to encourage connection and movement. While we wanted to stay true to this value we also wanted to push the boundaries of what technology is capable of and bring it into the physical world. We aimed to keep the nature of the physical exhibits and interactivity while bringing in the versatility and streamlined ability to update that technology allows.
Our solutions function through a series of motion and noise sensors that would allow Marbles to not only interact and engage their audience in real time but also gather more accurate data on when, why, and how users engage. This will allow Marbles to know when exhibits and installations need repair, expansion, or revisions. This also ensures that Marbles can provide accurate information to guests about capacity, circulation, and accessibility. For example, a parent bringing a child that is sensory sensitive may look out for exhibits that are not only less crowded but also exhibits that don't have lights or sound. Split into three phases based on estimated time of implementation, our proposed solutions our outlined below.
Placement proposal on the Marbles campus. Made in collaboration with the way-finding system proposed by the other team
The Adventures of Prototyping: How to fit a full sized faux brick wall into a sedan. 🚘
I won't keep you in suspense, the answer to the above is a battery powered circular saw.
One of my primary and most challenging roles in this project was building a prototype and proof of concept for the interactive light installation. After a semester of research and ideation my parter and circuit savvy engineering counterpart, Sarah Trinkle, and I only had about a week and a half to make this happen. For our prototype, we were limited by our time and budgetary constraints but ultimately this constraint helped us illustrate the accessibility and ease of implementation for our proposed solution to the Marbles team. In addition to building a proof of concept prototype, we provided a research package outlining a variety weather proof, damage resistant, and visually minimal components in a variety of price ranges that could be used to implement this interactive light installation on a larger scale. While I had a basic understanding of circuitry and hardware, I learned a tremendous amount by building this out with Sarah. We used a non-toxic conductive electric paint, LEDs, an Arduino board, a basic super sonic sensor, hotglue, and a lot of electrical tape to build this prototype.
The prototype wall segment below was coded to light up and increase in speed the closer the user was to the sensor. There are a number of possible outputs that the installation can use and change with code once the hardware is in place.
Reflection & Next Steps
Our proposal received overwhelmingly positive responses from the Marbles Team and we were invited back to present our findings and proposal to Clearscapes, the architecture firm leading design and renovations for the museum.
Collaboration was an essential part of this project's success. I learned more by listening. Through this process I learned a tremendous amount on how to better engage interdisciplinary teams through the design process and how "designer lingo" can be unintentionally alienating for those not already familiar with it. The teamwork through this project resulted in better ideas, new perspectives and more impactful solutions.
Check out the NC State College of Design's summary of the project here
I couldn't have done this project without my team of designers, engineers, business students: Cole Ferguson, Sarah Trinkle, Jecori Owens-Shuler, Kylie Ogburn, Cait Rathvon, and Rachel Pollock. Shout out and thank you to the IBM designers who guided us along the way!